Bibi Harsarn Kaur, three narrations of her story
Sikh women are always known to have responded to the call of their duty. They have not allowed hardships and dangers to stand in the way of the performance of their moral obligations. Bibi Harsarn Kaur was one of these women who faced the dangerous odds to fulfil her obligations. Guru Gobind Singh Ji's two elder sons together with many other Sikhs, were martyred while fighting the foes at the battle of Chamkaur Sahib. Under pressure of the wishes of his Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh was obliged to leave the place under cover of darkness and give up his expressed wish to follow his sons and fellow warriors into certain Martyrdom. The enemy traditionally inclined to retreat to the safety of their camps taking full advantage of the lull and darkness, rested in the surrounding area where they had besieged the Sikhs.
After leaving Chamkaur Sahib, Guru Ji reached the village where Bibi Harsarn Kaur lived. On seeing the Guru's face she at once recognised him. She bowed to Guru Ji and asked about the Sahibzade. She had been a nursing sister to them. Guru Ji told her about their martyrdom. She hurried to Chamkaur Sahib and stole, on cat's paw, to the battle scene and recognised the martyred Sikhs. She collected all the wood she could and piled the pieces high. She placed the bodies of the Sahibzade and the other Sikhs on the pile and set it afire.
The big conflagration woke the enemy with consternation. All their expectations of getting prizes and honours were dashed to the ground. Now there was nothing left to from which to discern the identities of their victims and earn them awards or honors form their superiors.
In the light of the fire, they were amazed to spy a female figure with a javelin in hand standing near the pile. They approached her and demanded to know who she was and whence she came. But nothing could make her speak. They became furious and threw Bibi Harsarn, javelin and all in the fire. Thus she too obtained martyrdom on 23rd Dec 1704.
Story from the Punjabi book "Adarshak Singhnia".
A second version that has been added to this page. possibly from Bhai Vir Singh's book, Kalghidhar Chamatkar, Part V
Bibi Harsharn Kaur was a brave Sikh woman who gave her life to fulfill her obligation. She faced the odds and did not allow dangers to stand in her way. She is well known for responding to the call of her duty ignoring her safety. Bhai Vir Singh in his book, Kalghidhar Chamatkar, Part V named her Sharan Kaur Guru Gobind Singh with his two elder sons, five beloved ones and thirty-five other Sikhs, forty-three souls in all reached Chamkaur, a village sixteen kilometers from the river Sirsa, which they crossed on 21st December 1704. Realizing that the enemy was in front and in the rear, they occupied a mud-built double-storied house there. The next morning they were besieged by thousands of Mogul soldiers. Two under aged princes, Ajit Singh, and Jujhar Singh (still in their teens), and thirty-five of the remaining Sikhs laid down their lives fighting bravely at the altar of faith and freedom before nightfall when the fight ended. The Guru himself, with bow in hand, took part in the battle killing and wounding many.
Now the Guru was left with only five Sikhs who told the Guru that at that moment they were the Guru and he was the Khalsa. They ordered him to escape in the interest of the community. Three would accompany him and the remaining two would stay behind to continue the fight. Pressed by the repeated humble requests of the five Sikhs, the Guru was obliged to leave the place under the cover of darkness at midnight. Three Sikhs also left one by one. It was decided that they would meet in the garden near Machhiwara. Tired Moghul soldiers were also resting in darkness in the surrounding area. After leaving Chamkaur, the Guru reached a village where Harsharn Kaur, a baptized Sikh lady, lived. She recognized the Guru, bowed before him and asked about the princes and the other Sikhs. She had been a nursing sister to the princes. The Guru told her about their martyrdom. Hearing this, she made up her mind to cremate the dead bodies of the princes and other Sikhs. She realized that it was her moral duty to give these martyrs a decent cremation even if it cost her life.
She disguised herself as a Muslim woman, armed herself and secretly started for the battle scene. On reaching there, she saw that the Moghul soldiers were enjoying a sound sleep in their tents as they had been burying their dead soldiers throughout the day and were tired. She gathered all the dead bodies of the Sikh martyrs at one place. She collected sufficient dry wood and bushes, and piled them high. She placed all the dead bodies on the pile, prayed with tears in her eyes, and set them on fire. Flames of fire woke the sleeping soldiers. They ran to the scene and were disappointed to find that there was no dead body left. Now they could not show the identities of their victims and thus earn prizes and honors from their superiors.
In the light of the fire, they were surprised to find a woman. They asked her who she was and from whence she came. She did not speak, as she did not want to tell a lie. She stood without any sign of fear. They threatened her, but nothing could make her speak. When they saw that she had a sword in her hand, they became furious and one of them fired at her and injured her seriously. Now two soldiers lifted her and threw her body along with her sword in the fire. Thus she, too, obtained martyrdom on 23rd December 1704. Her soul met her martyred brothers. Her sacrifice is narrated many times.
Bibi Harsharan Kaur: The Final Shaheed of the Battle of Chamkaur.
A third version has now been added
In the battle of Chamkaur, Guru Gobind Singh jee and 40 starving Singhs battle the Mughal army. The battle which took place in Chamkaur's mud fort lasted 72 hours and saw the loss of many Mughal soldiers and also 36 of Guru Gobind Singh jee's companions along with the two Sahibzadas. Fighting an army of many thousands, Guru Gobind Singh jee gave an exhibition of his battle skills. Guru jee, following the orders of the Panth Khalsa (in the form of the Punj Pyaaray) left the fort along with Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Maan Singh and one other Singh, after giving his clothes to Bhai Sangat Singh jee to wear. Only Bhai Sangat Singh and Bhai Sant Singh fought the battle to its end. They too were martyred. Seeing Guru jee's clothes on Bhai Sangat Singh, the Mughals were ecstatic and taking him to be Guru Gobind Singh, cut off his head and took it to Delhi.
In every village it was announced that Guru Gobind Singh had been killed, "Look here at his chopped off head! His family is also finished. His two sons were killed in the battle and the two younger ones will also die abandoned. The revolution has been crushed. No one should go to the Chamkaur Fort. No one should cremate the dead Singhs."
A tight cordon was put around the Fort. As the soldiers were going from village to village making their announcement, the people were retreating in terror into their homes. However, in village Khroond, a daughter of Guru Gobind Singh, Bibi Harsharan Kaur, asked for her mother's permission to peform the final rites for the Shaheeds. Her old mother replied, "it is total darkness outside and soldiers are everywhere around the fort, how will you even go near?"
Hearing this, Kalgeedhar's lioness daughter replied with resolve "I will avoid the soldiers and perform the cremation, and if need be, I'll fight and die."
The mother gave her courage and hugged her daughter and then explained the maryada to follow for the cremation. After performing Ardaas, Bibi Harsharan Kaur left for the Chamkaur Fort.
The battlefield which saw iron smashing against iron, the bellows of elephants, the trotting of hooves and calls of "Kill! Capture!", was now totally silent and enveloped in complete darkness. In such a situation, the 16 year old girl Bibi Harsharan Kaur avoided the guards and arrived at the Fort. She saw that bodies were lying everywhere and distinguishing between Sikh and Mughal was very difficult. She still had faith and began to find arms with kaRas and torsos with kachheras and heads with long kesh. As she found a body, she would wipe the face of every shaheed. Both Sahibzadas and about 30 shaheeds were found and then she began to collect wood. Fearing the approaching light of dawn, Bibi Harsharan Kaur worked very quickly and soon prepared a pyre. She then lit the fire.
Seeing the rising flames, the guards were shocked and advanced towards the pyre. Bibi Harsharan Kaur was seen in the light of the flames sitting beside the pyre. She was quietly reciting Keertan Sohilaa. The guards were shocked and confused as to how a lone woman could come into the fort on such a dark night. The guards asked in a loud voice, "Who are you?!" Bibi jee: I am the daughter of Guru Gobind Singh Officer: What are you doing here? Bibi Jee: I am cremating my martyred brothers. Officer: Don't you know about the order that coming here is a crime? Bibi Jee: I know it. Officer: Then why have you disobeyed that order? Bibi Jee: The orders of a false king do not stand before the orders of the Sachay Patshah (True King) Officer: Meaning? Bibi Jee: Meaning that I have respect for the Singhs in my heart and with the Guru's grace I have done my duty. I don't care about your King's orders.
Hearing such stern answers from Bibi Harsharan Kaur, the infuriated Mughal soldiers attempted to capture her and attacked. Bibi jee grabbed her kirpaan and fought back with determination. After killing and maiming many soldiers, Bibi Harsharan Kaur was injured and fell to the ground. The soldiers picked Bibi Harsharan Kaur up and threw her into the pyre, burning her alive.
The next day the cordon around the Fort was lifted because it was clear that the Sahibzadas and most of the Shaheed Singhs had been cremated. The ancestors of the Phulkiaan family, Rama and Triloka, then cremated whichever Singhs remained. The story of Bibi Harsharan Kaur reached Guru Gobind Singh jee Mahaaraaj in Talvandee Sabo (Damdama Sahib).
Upon hearing of her daughter's martyrdom, the old mother thanked Akaal Purakh. She said, "my daughter has proven herself worthy." The story of the cremation of the Chamkaur Shaheeds will forever serve as a glowing star of inspiration for all Singhs and Singhnees.